Author and baker Beth Howard celebrates by talking about the power of pies and pie-making.
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Beth Howard. I'm the author of "Making Piece." I'm the proprietor of the Pitchfork Pie Stand at the American Gothic House, which is where I live in Southeastern Iowa.
I learned how to make pie when I was 17. I was caught stealing apples off of a tree in somebody's orchard in the state of Washington when I was on a bicycle trip. And I was on a bike, of course, so I was young and hungry and wasn't really meaning to steal any apples. But the man who owned the orchard came out, and I got in trouble. But then he realized I was just this kid from Iowa, so he invited me in to teach me how to make apple pie. He was a retired pastry chef.
And that launched my interest in pie. I always say that I was born because of pie because my mother got my dad to marry her by making him his favorite banana cream pie.
And I took my pie baking to a whole other level when I had-- in 2000, 2001, I was working at a very stressful dot.com job in San Francisco as a web producer. And I got really tired of working in front of the computer and creating virtual environments. And it just gave me this strong sense of desire to do something different, something tactile. I wanted to work with my hands and work with my senses.
And so I told my bosses I was quitting and that I was going to go make pie. And I thought I was kidding, but then life is funny that way, you know. You put something out there. And next thing I knew, I stumbled into a pie-baking job in Malibu, California. I went to a new gourmet takeout place, and they were supposed to be known for their pie.
And I went in there to get a slice, and they said they were too busy to make it. And so I said I would make it for them. And I spent the next year of my life in what I call a pie-baking sabbatical, where I was making pies for the stars. And that part is a bit overrated-- the star part-- because, really, I was just back in a very tiny, small kitchen sweating.
After the pie-baking sabbatical, I got married to this wonderful man, Marcus. My husband and I were together for six years, and he died suddenly of a ruptured aorta at the age of 43. And so I sought comfort in pie again. That was something that had sort of restored my spirit before after a stressful dot.com job, and I just remembered what a really helpful time that was. And I also knew how happy pie makes people, and that, in turn, makes me happy.
So after Marcus died, I got into the pie-baking mode again. And it sort of happened accidentally, actually. I was driving the RV that he had left behind and ran into a TV producer friend who said, oh, I know you have a blog about pie, which is called "The World Needs More Pie." I still have the blog, by the way. And she said, oh, you also have this RV. And I like to make documentaries and travel. Let's make a pie documentary.
So we did. And we spent several weeks on the road interviewing pie bakers and learning about all the different aspects of, well, pie-- like where fruit comes from, where the filling comes from, and different crust recipes. And the main thing we learned is that pie is this thing that you can make and give back to others, that it's-- it's, again-- it's always about feeling good, you know. Pie makes people feel good.
And during that TV shoot, it coincided with National Pie Day, which is always January 23. And we made 50 pies by hand, and we gave them out by the slice on the streets of Los Angeles. And we had the RV, so we had the table set up right outside of the RV and handing out slices.
And, you know, I thought people were going to be suspicious, like, hey, you know, I don't know who you are. And I'm not-- I don't take food from strangers. But it was the opposite. They saw this homemade pie, and they stopped and took a bite and said, oh, this reminds me of my grandmother, and I can't believe you're doing this for free, and this makes me want to do something nice for somebody else.
And that was a really great experience in terms of learning the power of pie and how it can change the world, make the world a better place-- how it makes people happy-- how it, in turn, could make me feel better. And I've just been going forward with it ever since.